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Archive for March, 2009

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Note: The last couple of days heavy rains here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast have changed the look of the north side of the Blue Bird Trail. The following images are from Saturday morning, after two days of heavy rains. The survey was taken Friday morning, when there was only about 6″-12″ of flood water on the north, lower portion of the campus.

Master Naturalist Buddy John is out of the hospital this past week and at home resting, healing and hopefully catching up on the sleep he didn’t get while in the last weekend hospital.

As you would expect, Emily, the Tree-Climbing Wonder Dog, was very happy to see her master back home!

Recuperating at home, John and Emily were not able to go on the Blue Bird Trail survey Friday morning, and it was just as well, as the north part of the Trail was mostly under 6″-12″ of water from all the rain we received during Thursday night’s overnight deluge in the Long Beach area.

Then, overnight, Friday evening, after I had taken the survey, we received over 7 inches of rain here in the Long Beach area, on top of the large amount we received early Friday, while our neighbors in Biloxi, received over 11 inches of rain overnight last evening!

So, it’s a wee bit wet outside this Saturday morning, here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, as I write this post, including having the entire north, lower-lying portion of our campus, under five feet of flood water.

It’s a good thing that we installed the nesting boxes six feet off the ground! And, again, it is a good thing that I did the survey Friday morning, when there was only 6″-12″ of flood water on part of the trail, instead of waiting to do it Saturday morning, when there was five feet of flood water there!

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Nesting box #6, is located next to the entrance drive to our campus Maintenance complex. The Maintenance shop is shown in the background.

Friday morning, then, with the able assistance of my fellow Maintenance worker, Russell, who cares for the entire grounds on the 45-acre campus where we work days, we hopped on the Ford tractor and trailer, and cruised out into the slightly flooded north part of the campus to check the two remaining nesting boxes that I wasn’t able to walk to earlier (I didn’t have boots), that were in about a foot of water. Thanks, Russell!

The Blue Birds on the Trail continued to be active during the past week, as 6 new Blue Bird eggs were recorded during the Friday survey, bringing the total number of eggs in the nesting boxes to 29, compared with 23 last Friday.

The two nests which had 4 eggs last week, both increased to 5, making four nests containing 5 eggs. The #12 nest female laid 4 new eggs this week, and John expects that this number will probably increase to 5 by next Friday’s survey.

In activity at the #1 nesting box, a female Blue Bird has taken over the nesting box, from whatever bird had formerly built a complete moss nest in the box. John speculated that perhaps a Chickadee or Nuthatch female had built the moss nest.

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Nesting box #9.

Next week’s survey should be interesting, as it is possible that there will be some Blue Bird babies hatching during the coming week.

Here are the complete Blue Bird Trail Survey results for this week, on Friday, March 27, 2009:

Nest #1 – New Blue Bird straw nest built on top of the moss nest; Momma Blue Bird took over the nesting box! – Last Week: Moss nest built.

Nest #2 – 5 Blue Bird eggs. – Last Week: 5 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #3 – Empty box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty box – no activity.

Nest #4 – 5 Blue Bird eggs. – Last Week: 5 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #5 – Nest built, no eggs yet. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

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Nesting box #12.

Nest #6 – 5 Blue Bird eggs. – Last Week: 4 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #7 – 5 Blue Bird eggs. – Last Week: 5 Blue Bird Eggs.

Nest #8 – 5 Blue Bird eggs. – Last Week: 4 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #9 – Nest built, no eggs yet. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

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Nesting box #8.

Nest #10 – Empty box, no activity. – Last Week: Empty box, no activity.

Nest #11 – Some straw in box. – Last Week: Some straw in box.

Nest #12 – 4 Blue Bird eggs. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

Nest #13 – Nest built, no eggs yet. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

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The Trumpeter Vine plants in the north side of the Campus are producing some beautiful blossoms, just as the Hummingbirds are coming back to the area.

Next week, I look forward to doing the Trail Survey with John and Emily back and completing the Survey team.

Have a good week!

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It’s time to do Week #3 of the 2009 Mississippi Gulf Coast Blue Bird Trail Survey in Long Beach, but, something is wrong.

Normally, the Blue Bird Trail Survey crew includes Master Naturalist Buddy John, Emily, the Tree-Climbing Wonder Dog, and myself.

Today, though, the survey crew included……… me.

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Master Naturalist Buddy John.

Master Naturalist Buddy John was admitted to the hospital yesterday morning, after waking up with one of his legs swollen. John hopes to be out of the hospital by Sunday evening, but I figure that won’t happen, as hospitals don’t to let patients out on a Sunday. Is that what you’ve heard?

So, I am babysitting with Emily, and her little sister, Halie, the Manx cat, for the weekend, or until John comes back home.

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Halie, John’s Manx cat, and Emily’s little sister.

Meanwhile, it was time to Survey the nesting boxes for Week #3, and lots is happening.

WOW! The Blue Birds have busy during the past week!

During last week’s survey, we found nine nests already built (no eggs yet, though), two nests under construction, and two empty nesting boxes.

This week’s Blue Bird Trail Survey found ten nests built, including one moss nest, one nest under construction and two empty nesting boxes.

The big difference this week is that we have a total of 23 new Blue Bird eggs among five of the nesting boxes! It will be interesting to see how many of these eggs result in babies that fly from the nest.

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Three of our nesting boxes had five Blue Bird eggs in them.

A year ago this week on the Blue Bird Trail Survey, we found four Blue Bird nests completely built, containing a total of 13 Blue Bird eggs in those four nests, with two other nests under construction, and seven empty nesting boxes.

Here are the complete Blue Bird Trail Survey results for this week, on Friday, March 20, 2009:

Nest #1 – Moss nest built. – Last Week: Nest under construction; some moss found in box.

Nest #2 – 5 Blue Bird eggs. – Last Week: Nest built.

Nest #3 – Empty box – no activity. – Last Week: Empty box, no activity.

Nest #4 – 5 Blue Bird eggs. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

Nest #5 – Nest built, no eggs yet. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

Nest #6 – 4 Blue Bird eggs. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

Nest #7 – 5 Blue Bird Eggs. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

Nest #8 – 4 Blue Bird eggs. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

Nest #9 – Nest built, no eggs yet. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

Nest #10 – Empty nest, no activity. – Last Week: Empty box, no activity.

Nest #11 – Some straw in box. – Last Week: Some straw in box.

Nest #12 – Nest built, no eggs yet. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

Nest #13 – Nest built, no eggs yet. – Last Week: Nest built, no eggs yet.

Next week, I look forward to doing the Trail Survey with John and Emily back and completing the Survey team.

HAPPY SPRING!

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Following is a story about music and falling in love during college life in 1964-65.

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The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, Feb. 9, 1964.

The first time I saw and heard the Beatles sing, was the first time they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, Feb. 9, 1964, like forever ago.

And just like that, much of the youth of America fell in love with them, and their music. Today, their music is almost as popular in this country as it was back then.

As my youngest son was growing up and became interested in music, he first came to like the Beach Boys, but soon after that, he elevated The Beatles to top place of all the performers he likes, and probably to this day, he likes them the best of all time.

When he was a freshman in high school, he sang the Beatles song, “Something” and brought the house down at that particular music concert.

He went on to initially major in vocal music/performance when he went to college, and ended up with a minor in Music, and a major in communications. While in college, he sang in a number of performing choirs, and sang the lead in several musicals, possessing an amazing tenor voice.

What prompted this post about The Beatles, was that it was playing on my CD player in my car this evening, as I made my way back home to my travel trailer, driving along in the rain, on the beach highway (90), from Biloxi.

As I listened to the boys sing (and sang along with them) during my drive, my thoughts drifted back to 1964 and 1965, when I was a sophomore in college at one of the State Universities in Wisconsin. The spring semester of my freshman year, I pledged a fraternity, and then signed up to live in the fraternity house on campus the fall of my sophomore year.

I remember vividly that the Beatles music was played almost non-stop in the fraternity house that fall semester of 1964, by one or more of the brothers residing there, and, consequently, it was almost impossible to have a quiet study area anywhere in the house at any time of the day or night.

Basically then, it was because of the Beatles and their music being so popular in my fraternity house, that I became almost a fixture evenings at the campus library, at a certain table, every week night, in order to get my school work done, and get ready for the next day’s classes.

I did come to love their music, though, and still do, to this day. It was like deja vou, having the Beatles come to be so well-liked in America, after first having it happen to Elvis, a little earlier.

At the dances and parties the fraternity threw at the house, their music was always played, and usually very loudly.

During that year when I lived at the house, my academic performance wasn’t exactly sterling, to be sure, and I attribute that to a couple of distractions. Also, many of the weekends of that sophomore year, I drove an hour and 45 minutes back to my home, where I tended bar on Friday and Saturday evenings in my parents’ supper club. Not much studying got done those weekends, either. But I did earn a little spending money for the following week at school.

It was during that fall, while studying at that same table in the campus library, that I met and shortly thereafter, came to love, a sweet, little blue-eyed, red-haired, freckled young coed, by the name of Kelly, who was also a sophomore, and was from a small town from north of Milwaukee. Thanks for getting me to the library every night, Beatles!

After meeting and going out a few times, Kelly and I spent a good amount of time together, as much as her and my studies and work times allowed, and became rather serious about each other. One memory I have is from that following spring, on St. Patrick’s Day evening, we decided to drive up to Madison and visit some of the bars on State Street in celebration of the holiday, and both had way too much green beer to drink to be able to safely drive back to the campus. That was back in the days that I actually drank.

So, we ended up sleeping in my car on a Madison street that night, and drove back the next morning, when our blood alcohol levels were much lower. In consideration of the amount of beer we had consumed that evening, sleeping was, um, all we ended up doing in the car. Good thing I had a quilt in my trunk, or we’d have probably froze to death that night.

I could have attempted to drive over to my great aunt’s home on the east side that night, and stayed there, but I probably would have had an accident on the way there.

One night about a month after that St. Patrick’s Day road trip, Kelly sat down to talk with me one night and explained that she had decided to leave school and go back home, so that she could try to discover what she wanted to do with her life. She wanted a complete change in her life; complete. This included leaving our relationship.

I had felt that for some time, she was feeling unsure of herself, in many ways, so it wasn’t a complete shock when it came. She felt bad that I felt bad, but I assured her that I understood, and would abide by her wishes, no matter the pain involved, as I loved her and wanted most of all for her to be happy in life.

So, with a hurting heart, I let her go, and walked away, thankful for the precious time that we had had together. She was a sweet soul.

Shortly after that, I did the paperwork to transfer to another university for the fall semester, partially because I wanted to leave my former campus, and the memories of Kelly, behind, and go on.

As fate would have it, a former high school friend, told me about a student apartment house he and another friend were renting at the college I was transferring to, and my brother and I were able to rent a room on the third floor of the same building for the fall semester.

Coincidentally, the apartment house was located about ten steps off State Street, and only a few yards from the very bars that I had visited the previous St. Patrick’s Day. And, more unknown to me at the time, it was only one block up the street from the high rise student dorm where Blond Girl was living, while she was also a student at the same university.

That fall, in 1965, during one of those weekend bar-tending trips back home from school, one Saturday night, standing next to a Juke box, I formally met, and thanks to God and my gracious brother, then shortly thereafter, came to fall in love with Blond Girl. What a ‘coincidence’ that I had moved to campus that fall, and was now living only a block away from where she was living.

We have been married and in love now for over 40 years, and counting.

One of my good friends here on the coast, Andrea, will understand when I say, that Kelly’s going away, my changing colleges, and moving to within a block of where Blond Girl was living, were ‘God winks,’ so that then I could meet and fall in love with the one I was supposed to be with in this lifetime, Blond Girl.

That definitely works for me.

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Well, Blue Bird watchers, it’s Week #2 in the 2009 Trail Survey already, and momentum continues to build on the Trail, literally, in the Blue Bird nest building scene.

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During last week’s survey, we found three nests already built, two under construction and eight empty nesting boxes.

In our Survey of this morning, we discovered that the nesting pairs are definitely in the family mood, as we found nine nests completely built, two under construction and only two empty boxes.

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This week, we found nine of the thirteen boxes had nests in them that were completely built, ready for eggs.

Here are the Trail Survey results for this week:

Nest #1 – Nest under construction – some moss found in box. – Last Week: Empty box – no activity.

Nest #2 – Nest built. – Last Week: Some straw in box.

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Master Naturalist Buddy John joshes me about finding no nests when I opened the nesting boxes, while he always found nests when he opened the boxes to check them.

Nest #3 – Empty box – no activity. – Last Week: Empty box – no activity.

Nest #4 – Nest built – no eggs yet. – Last Week: Nest built.

Nest #5 – Nest built – no eggs yet. – Last Week: Nest built.

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One of the many species of Mississippi wildflowers we encountered during this week’s Trail Survey, this one being the Carolina Creeper, according to Master Naturalist Buddy John.

Nest #6 – Nest built – no eggs yet. – Last Week: Nest built.

Nest #7 – Nest built. – Last Week: Nest under construction.

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Another of the wildflowers we encountered during the survey.

Nest #8 – Nest built. – Last Week: Empty box – no activity.

Nest #9 – Nest built. – Last Week: Empty box – no activity.

Nest #10 – Empty box – no activity. – Last Week: Empty box – no activity.

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Nest #11 – Some straw in box. – Last Week: Empty box – no activity.

Nest #12 – Nest built. – Last Week: Empty box – no activity.

Nest #13 – Nest built. – Last Week: Empty box – no activity.

Hopefully, in next week’s Trail Survey report, we will have lots of Blue Bird eggs in the nine complete nests we found this week.

Until then, from the Mississippi Gulf Coast Blue Bird Trail Survey team (including Emily, the Tree Climbing Wonder Dog), have a great week!

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PS- Emily put on a real show yesterday afternoon, when a group of 30 some college students from Virginia Tech and Ball State stopped by to see our giant Live Oak. While many of the students gasped and snapped digital shots of her, she walked up and down the huge limbs of the 700+ year old tree, which has an amazing horizontal branch spread of 162 feet!

The Virginia Tech and Ball State students were a great bunch, and are a beautiful example of one of the things that is RIGHT about our country, as they were staying across the bay in Bay St’ Louis all week, down here on an Alternative Spring Break trip to help clean up the coast after Hurricane Katrina. Thank you students for your dedication and caring hearts! Come back when you can.

I didn’t have my Nikon on hand when Emily did her thing for the V-Tech cameras, but here are some images I shot of her last year that demonstrate when she did for the students in the big tree.

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You wouldn’t catch me up that high!

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Yep, she’s one amazing dog!

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Hello, again, fellow Blue Bird watchers, and welcome to the 2009 Mississippi Gulf Coast Blue Bird Trail Update.

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The Blue Birds in Long Beach are busy building nests again, as the 2009 mating season begins.

During the 2008 Blue Bird mating season at the SMRC Long Beach facility, 45 Blue Bird babies and 6 Chickadee babies flew from the 13 nesting boxes on the Trail.

Numerous Blue Birds have been spotted feeding on the grounds of the facility during the winter months, and it is hoped that many of last year’s crop of Blue Bird babies survived the winter to become nesting pairs in
this year’s season.

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In this 2008 Blue Bird mating season image, Master Naturalist Buddy John and Emily walked the Blue Bird Trail.

Here are the survey results on the Blue Bird Trail, from Wednesday, March 4, 2009, taken by Master Naturalist Buddy John and your author, with the Survey companionship by Emily, the Tree-Climbing Wonder Dog.

Nest #1 – No activity. – Last Year Wk#1: 4 Blue Bird eggs.

Nest #2 – Some straw, nest under construction. – Last Year Wk#1: Nest under construction.

Nest #3 – No activity. – Last Year Wk#1: Nest under construction.

Nest #4 – Nest built. – Last Year Wk#1: Nest built.

Nest #5 – **Nest built. – Last Year Wk#1: No activity. **There was no nest building activity in this nest during the entire 2008 mating season.

Nest #6 – Nest built. – Last Year Wk#1: No activity.

Nest #7 – Nest under construction. – Last Year Wk#1: Nest under construction.

Nest #8 – No activity. – Last Year Wk#1: No activity.

Nest #9 – No activity. – Last Year Wk#1: No activity.

Nest #10 – No activity. – Last Year Wk#1: Nest under construction.

Nest #11 – No activity. – Last Year Wk#1: No activity.

Nest #12 – No activity. – Last Year Wk#1: No activity.

Nest #13 – No activity. – Last Year Wk#1: No activity.

Although there are no eggs yet in the nesting boxes yet, five nests have either been built or are under construction this week, and we hope to see some eggs by next Friday’s Trail Survey.

Have a good week!

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